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Hillsborough couple joins barrage of lawsuits against Lumber Liquidators for unsafe flooring

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A Hillsborough County couple has joined the growing list of people suing Lumber Liquidators for unsafe flooring products. A lawsuit filed in Hillsborough courts late last month alleges the company’s product contained unsafe levels of formaldehyde and caused the couple’s minor child to become ill.

The lawsuit comes after a series of others following a 60 Minutes report in March uncovering much of the company’s laminate flooring is made in China and “contains high levels of formaldehyde, a known cancer-causing chemical.”

The investigative report prompted probes by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That’s also when the lawsuits began.

An Orlando firm filed a class-action suit in federal court in which Lumber Liquidators then offered to send free formaldehyde testing kits to customers upon request. Another class-action suit was filed in Tampa Bay by Omar and Christina Morris. Palm Harbor residents Amanda and David Guiane and Tampa residents Nicole and Miguel Alonso also reportedly filed suits against the company.

The latest lawsuit appears to be the first filed in Pinellas or Hillsborough courts.

Jessica and Raymond Quinones argue they purchased more than 1,300 square feet of hardwood flooring at a retail Lumber Liquidators store in Lutz. According to the lawsuit, the couple was forced to move from their home when their 3-year-old son “I.Q.” became sick.

The couple purportedly sent in a formaldehyde test kit but never received results. The couple then hired an independent testing expert who found formaldehyde levels in the flooring were 10 times target levels and the home was four times higher than is safe.

The couple accuses the company of putting “profits over people.”

According to the lawsuit, the couple’s son’s symptoms disappeared after moving out of the home containing Lumber Liquidators’ product.

Lawsuits filed in federal court were eventually consolidated into others around the country and are now moving through courts in the Eastern District of Virginia.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding flooring products imported from China, the company’s CEO, Robert Lynch, “unexpectedly” resigned, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Prior to Lynch’s resignation the company disclosed that the U.S. Justice Department is seeking criminal charges against the company. The company then suspended sales of the laminate flooring imported from China. According to the Times report, Lumber Liquidators claimed 97 percent of the formaldehyde test kits returned showed air concentrations that fell within those considered acceptable by the World Health Organization. They claimed to have sent out “thousands” of the test kits.

It’s not clear how much the Quinones are seeking in damages. The lawsuit requests the “full amount of their damages to be determined by a jury, attorney’s fees and court costs, along with any such other relief this court deems just and proper.”

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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